Tag Archives: South Africa

Sunday Reads

other Power plant
I am in my favourite city, Joburg so enjoy …
How can we change this? We can start, says Dr. David, by letting boys experience their emotions, all of them, without judgment — or by offering them solutions. This means helping them learn the crucial lessons that “Emotions aren’t good or bad” and that “their emotions aren’t bigger than they are. They aren’t something to fear. (NYT)
Recipes:
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Cry Woman cry, we are on our own

The last couple of weeks have been really tough for women in South Africa as case after case hit the media of women and children of all ages being violated and their bodies inhumanely disposed of and it broke me shattered me. (For context: search the hashtags #MenAreTrash,  #KaraboMokoena and #Courtney Peters) A lot of the incidences were targeted at Black women, which I happen to be.

What upset me further is the fact that in many of these cases, the accused/ the perpetrator was almost always someone known to the victim and/or her family and even went ahead to assist the family to look for the victim. What sort of special animal are you though?

What hurts even more is the fact that justice is meted out based on the socioeconomic status of the victim and therefore thousands in the townships die and no hashtag follows their death. In fact, we hardly know their names and their deaths are not reported on.

The countless rape myths that follow the victim are unbearable. Why was she dressed like that? Why was she with him? Why did she go to his house? How dare she be a lesbian? No, just no!! It is not her fault but his.

A friend of mine tried to think of what to do and even now I still don’t know. Beyond the usual trying to protect yourself from being raped or being violated, what energy is left for you to think of another and to try and stop it from happening to the next woman?

Sunday Reads

Recipes to try

Book Review: Rape – Pumla Dineo Gqola

Book Description

Why has South Africa been labelled the ‘world’s rape capital’? What don’t we as South Africans understand about rape? In Rape: A South African Nightmare, Pumla Dineo Gqola unpacks the complex relationship South Africa has with rape by paying attention to the patterns and trends of rape, asking what we can learn from famous cases and why South Africa is losing the battle against rape. This highly readable book leaps off the dusty book shelves of academia by asking penetrating questions and examining the shock belief syndrome that characterises public responses to rape, the female fear factory, boy rape, the rape of Black lesbians and violent masculinities. The book interrogates the high profile rape trials of Jacob Zuma, Bob Hewitt, Makhaya Ntini and Baby Tshepang as well as the feminist responses to the Anene Booysen case.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book and would happily recommend it to anyone. It is obvious not a light or easy read and so even the review will have to be organised the different themes that I picked up on. Please get the book and share it with your friends and loved one and most importantly, men.

What is Rape?

  • Rape is not a moment but a language (p. 22)
  • Rape is violence and not sex (29)
  • the believability of a rape survivor depends on how closely her rape resembles her society’s idea of what a rape looks like, who rapes, who can be raped, when and how. (29)
    • The story told by a woman needs a body of evidence. It is not an interest in the pain of the rape, but a burden of proof placed on the survivor or victim of rape. (29)

The Black Woman as a sexual and rapeable object

  • At the same time that the rape of slave women was routine within slavery, slavocratic society created the stereotype of African hyper sexuality which sought to both justify and authorise the institutionalised rape of slaves. The stereotypes held that slave women could not be raped since like all Africans they were excessively sexual and impossible to satiate.(43)
  • At the same time that slave women were being routinely raped as a means to multiply their masters slaves, slave men, especially when they were African slaves were cast as dangerously sexual, with a ravenous sexual appetite better suited to slave women but with a particular danger to white women. (43)
  • While the rape of slave women was profitable, it also threatened ideas of racial hierarchy and produced anxieties about race-mixing …  of the unspeakable sexual intercourse between white women and slave men … about the loss of control over the bodies of white women, as much as it was about the idea of white women becoming impure. (45)
  • Until the abolishment of the death penalty, no white man has been hanged for rape, whereas the only Black men who were hung for rape had been convicted of raping white women; no white man or Black man had been convicted and sentenced to death for raping a Black woman. (52)

Black Men

  • The image of poor, young Black men as the figure of the rapist is not the reality SA women live under. (11)
  • We need to confront violent masculinities. We need to confront and reject violent men and the patriarchal men and women who enable them. (67)
    • “Your silence will not protect you.” Audre Lorde (67)
    • “All our silence is … complicity.” bell hooks (67)
  • If we accept that it is time to render all forms of gendered violence genuinely illegitimate in all spaces we occupy, then it follows that to do so we need to stop making excuses, that we take up the challenge to constantly debunk rape myths wherever we encounter them because all gender-based violence is brutality, a form of gender war against survivors’ bodies and psyches. (143)

Patriarchy

  • Rape has survived as long as it has because it works to keep patriarchy intact. It communicates clearly who matters and who is disposable. Those who matter are not afraid of being raped because they have not been taught to fear sexual assault. (21)
  • Patriarchy trains us all to be receptive to the conditions that produce- and reproduce- female fear, especially when it is not our own bodies on the assembly line. (80)
  • All men, no matter what race, class or religion have patriarchal power and can choose to brutalise and get away with it. (151)

Female Fear

  • Tired, hungry, distracted women are easier to control. (40)
  • The republic of SA has the contradictory situation where women are legislatively empowered, and yet we do not feel safe in our streets or homes. (65)
  • The manufacture of female fear uses the threat of rape and other bodily wounding but sometimes mythologises this violence as benefit. (79)
  • The threat of rape is an effective way to remind women that they are not safe and their bodies are not entirely theirs. It is an exercise in power that communicates that the man creating fear has power over the woman who is the target of his attention: it also teaches women who witness it their vulnerability either through reminding them of their own previous fears or showing them that it could happen to them next. (79)
  • The manufacture of female fear requires several aspects to work:
    • the safety of the aggressor,
    • the vulnerability of the target,
    • the successful communication by the aggressor that he has the power to wound, rape and/or kill the target with no consequences to himself. (80)
  • Women are socialised to look away from the female fear factory – to pretend it is not happening and to flee when ignoring it becomes impossible. (80)
  • Excuses make violence against women possible – they are part of the complicated network that says women are not human so our pain is generalised, unimportant, so we give violent men permission to keep all those they deem vulnerable such as women, men, and gender non-conforming people or children. (151)
  • South Africa has a greater problem with the existence of the […] rape survivor and victim that trouble by pointing to her/his/their own pain in South African public culture. The rapist is welcome to live and boast and be celebrated or lambasted for his hypermasculinity, even as he continues to flourish financially. (165)

This book helped me to understand the sexual objectification of African women and how we are often viewed as desirable and rapeable things by White and African men at large. Specifically for the White men, that attraction that often precedes that revulsion for deigning to be attracted to this lesser thing. Also, I could see how the morality laws are mainly to tame African men’s (sexual) appetites from being unleashed fully on (tired, hungry and distracted: read as helpless) White women. So on the one hand, it is perfectly fine to protect White women while on the other, prey on African women and continue to rape them and then blame them for it afterwards.

I also have a response to the cry “Not all men … ” if, and indeed it is the case, all men do not rape why do other men not call out these known rapists? Why don’t societies evaluate their ideas of a man and get their sons to grow up in a way that does not require them to diminish or brutalise women in order to feel fulfilled and accomplished. Being a man does not involve violence, rape or other attacks on women.

When I read the chapter of the female fear factory, I finally had to confront my own habits to counter this fear of being raped: smile at a group of men when they greet me even if I do not want to greet them; do not enter a loo if it is in a deserted part of the mall and there is a man outside; wear clothes that do not show my form if I will be going to certain crowded places; don’t walk in certain places after dark and the list goes on …

In closing this poem fully captures some of what this book tries to address: if he raped you, why didn’t you change/ who can be raped and how do they need to act afterwards? Also, this little paragraph about why the image of an independent black woman is a relic of racism.

Sunday Reads

  1. Women, language, rites of passage and the khanga.
  2. Cobalt mining and the lost lives in The DR Congo.
  3. Rhino poaching in South Africa.
  4. Attitudes to marriage in certain communities.
  5. Nairobi’s art and culture scene.
  6. Pssst! Africans also migrate within the continent.
  7. SERENA. WILLIAMS. SWOON!!!
A reporter asked Williams whether she should be considered one of the greatest female athletes of all time. Her perfect response: “I prefer the words ‘one of the greatest athletes of all time.’”
Enjoy!!

You will remember his name

Dr Lwazi Lushaba has had his name all over the #Fallist debate and today I read an open letter he penned to his Department Head.

In the afternoon of the 24th August 2016, the HoD of Politics at UCT addressed to me a letter, whose contents we shall in a moment discourse about. He opens the letter with the following salutation; Dear Lwazi. He could as well have written; Dear Dr. Lwazi Lushaba. It would not have made any difference. For, I cannot say with certainty what I, in his modern imaginary, represent. Accordingly, I have permitted myself the liberty of leading him to the abyss wherein dwells the shattered fragments of my being so he may recognise me for what and who I am. I am of those whose skin colour makes them objects of scorn and disregard. I am one with the black children of Masiphumelele, Imizamo Yethu, Gugulethu, and other black slums who with their tender bare black bodies play all day long in stagnant pools of discarded bathing water, urine, menstrual blood, vomit of drunken black souls, and perhaps discharge from a backyard abortion performed on a body too young to bear life. I am one with those in this country who grow up certain that success is destined to elude them because they are black. For us it remains dark even though the day should have started.

It is a heavy letter and it touches on an entire PhD worth of themes but it’s a worthwhile read because it summarises cogently the state of the races across institutions such as universities and the work place. Please bookmark it and read it when you get the chance to.

Caption this!

The situation at the University of Cape Town (UCT) that the Fallists (Fees Must Fall) are fighting for – inclusive and free education for all.

Source

 

 

On my bookshelf

As one of my goals this month is to read more African literature, these are the books on my bookshelf.

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One Day I will Write About This Place – Binyavanga Wainanina (Kenya/Uganda)

Binyavanga Wainaina tumbled through his middle-class Kenyan childhod out of kilter with the world around him. This world came to him as a chaos of loud and colourful sounds: the hair dryers at his mother’s beauty parlour, black mamba bicycle bells, mechanics in Nairobi, the music of Michael Jackson – all punctuated by the infectious laughter of his brother and sister, Jimmy and Ciru. He could fall in with their patterns, but it would take him a while to carve out his own. In this vivid and compelling debut, Wainaina takes us through his school days, his failed attempt to study in South Africa, a moving family reunion in Uganda, and his travels around Kenya. The landscape in front of him always claims his main attention, but he also evokes the shifting political scene that unsettles his views on family, tribe, and nationhood. Throughout, reading is his refuge and his solace. And when, in 2002, a writing prize comes through, the door is opened for him to pursue the career that perhaps had been beckoning all along. A series of fascinating reporting assignments follows in other African countries. Finally he circles back to a Kenya in the throes of postelection violence and finds he is not the only one questioning the old certainties. Resolutely avoiding stereotype and cliche, Wainaina paints every scene in One Day I Will Write About This Place with a highly distinctive and hugely memorable brush.

 

Men of the South – Zukiswa Wanner (South Africa)

In Johannesburg three men’s lives revolve around one woman. Mfundo is a struggling jazz musician. All hope of ever becoming famous end when he gets into a macho fight with an international R&B artist. No one is keen to employ him any longer, and Mfundo takes the role of house-husband. But his girlfriend Sli is not willing to be the ‘man’ of the house. Mzilikazi is a gay man in a heterosexual marriage. One of the few people in his life who do not question the decision he makes is his best friend, Sli. Tinaye is a Zimbabwean struggling to gain citizenship in South Africa hence his current situation – underpaid and overqualified. The only way to gain citizenship is to marry Grace. But then he meets Sli…

 

Coconut – Kopano Matlwa (South Africa)

An important rumination on youth in modern-day South Africa, this haunting debut novel tells the story of two extraordinary young women who have grown up black in white suburbs and must now struggle to find their identities. The rich and pampered Ofilwe has taken her privileged lifestyle for granted, and must confront her swiftly dwindling sense of culture when her soulless world falls apart. Meanwhile, the hip and sassy Fiks is an ambitious go-getter desperate to leave her vicious past behind for the glossy sophistication of city life, but finds Johannesburg to be more complicated and unforgiving than she expected. These two stories artfully come together to illustrate the weight of history upon a new generation in South Africa.

ASIDE: Claim to fame, the husband went to school with her Husband and we attended their wedding.

 

Happiness is a Four Letter Word – Cynthia Jele (South Africa)

Nandi, Zaza, Tumi and Princess are four ordinary friends living life in the fast and fabulous lanes of Joburg. Suddenly, no amount of cocktails can cure the stress that simultaneously unsettles their lives. Nandi’s final wedding arrangements are nearly in place so why is she feeling on edge?
Zaza, the “trophy wife”, waits for the day her affair comes to light and her husband gives her a one-way ticket back to the township; Tumi has only one wish to complete her perfect life – a child. But when her wish is granted, it’s not exactly how she pictured it. And Princess? For the first time ever, she has fallen in love – with Leo, a painter who seems to press all the right buttons. But soon she discovers – like her friends already have – that life is not a bed of roses, and happiness never comes with a manual . . .

ASIDE: Please read the book and/or watch the movie currently at the Cinemas.

 

Dust – Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor (Kenya)

Kenya, 2007. Odidi Oganda, running for his life, is gunned down in the streets of Nairobi. His sister, Ajany, and their father bring his body back home, to a crumbling colonial house in northern Kenya. But the peace they seek is hard to find: the murder has stirred deeply buried memories of colonial violence, of the killing-sprees of the Mau Mau uprising, and the shocking political assassination of Tom Mboya in 1969. When a young Englishman appears, searching for his missing father, another story, of love, or at least a connection, begins.

This is a spellbinding state of the nation novel about Kenya, showing how the violence of the past informs the violence and disorder of the present. Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor’s memorable characters; Ajany’s mother, deranged with grief and past violations, the Trader, embodying the timeless nomadic traders of Sudan, and Odidi himself, who transcended his past, came to success, and then a tragic end, are enchanting. Owuor reveals to us a new Kenya, a Kenya of bloodshed but also of modernity, suffused with a spirit world only half-remembered. This is a country where the characters listen so acutely for what is not said, and for the voices from the distant and recent past.

 

Rachel’s Blue – Zakes Mda (South Africa)

After a few stalls of beets, kale and zucchinis, and of candles made from beeswax and shaped into angels by a beekeeper who is also selling bottled honey, Jason stops to listen to yet another busker . . . He concludes that it is not for her voice – rather airy and desperate – that her open guitar case is bristling with greenbacks. It is for her strawberry blonde bangs peeping out from under her hat, and her deep blue eyes, and her willowy stature, and her brown prairie skirt of plaid gingham, and her bare feet with tan lines drawn by sandals, and her black T with “Appalachia Active” in big white letters across her breasts – the entire wholesome package that stands before him. She is trying hard to make her voice sound full-bodied and round, but she was not born for singing. She loses a beat to say “thank you” after Jason deposits a single, and then she tries hard to catch up with the song before it goes out of control.

At that moment Jason recognises her. Rachel. Rachel Boucher from Jensen Township . . .
Athens County, Ohio, USA. When Rachel Boucher and Jason de Klerk meet again – five years after high school – they immediately renew their friendship. But for Jason their friendship is just a stepping stone to something more – a romantic union that seems to have the blessing of the whole community. That is until Rachel becomes involved with Skye Riley.
As Skye and Rachel grow ever closer, Jason’s anger at the relationship boils over into violence, violence that turns the community on its head, setting old friends and neighbours against one another. But this is just a taste of things to come as, it turns out, Rachel is pregnant . . .

 

The Texture of Shadows – Mandla Langa (South Africa).

It is 1989, a high point of hope in South Africa’s political history. The nation is abuzz with rumours of Nelson Mandela’s imminent release, the dismantling of guerrilla camps and the possibility of peace.
A band of exiled People’s Army soldiers returns to South Africa. After years in Angola they think the change they have been fighting for is finally about to become a reality. They have been ordered to carry and deliver a sealed trunk to an unspecified destination. It is a mission that makes them a target as different parties set out to separate the men from the trunk and its mysterious contents, setting the stage for several fierce conflicts.
The Texture of Shadows explores a world of hardened guerrilla fighters, corrupt police officers, ex-political prisoners and the victims of abuse of a system of bannings and beatings. But there are also cracks in this steel-edged world that hope, love and beauty can fill as the reader is swept up in the story of Chaplain Nerissa Rodrigues and her fellow soldiers.

Will post reviews as I read them!

Belated IWD 2016

To all the women out there. Collectively, we are all SHE.

Laura Mvula is another new discovery and I am delighting in all her stuff.

8 years

Nidhi_3 Happy hour Butterfly Wonder art

Source

On this day in history, well, only eight years ago,I boarded a plane with a plan for two years but all of my worldly possessions and came to start my Honors and then Masters Degree the next year.

All I can say, this far the Lord has brought me and has continued to sustain me through so many lessons, firsts, lasts and experiences altogether. In keeping with my desire to be grateful this year, I am extremely grateful and my heart bubbles over.

Thanks for the memories and here’s to so many more years to come.

25. Sunday reads (Video overload)

  1. Linguistically this is why Mama and Baba (Mother and Father in Kiswahili) is almost universal?
  2. On the returns to tertiary education in South Africa. Also this.
  3.  Some people really have a great calling on their lives!!
  4. Beautiful pictures of African kids and their creative hairstyles.
  5. My Pastor was on to something when he spoke about how the child’s environment in the womb is very important! (Video)
  6. Funny how some product adverts go so left that at the end you have to think back to what they could have been advertising. This video is a case in point.
  7. What a gem this video is, dismissive of North Korea but normal against Queen Elizabeth’s birthday and other Royal celebrations.
  8. Would you know how to pronounce this town’s name, Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysilio-gogogoch? Watch how to here.
  9. Some people are really leading interesting lives and following some lovely passions they personally have, watch.
  10. This is what contact lenses looked like 67 years ago!! Jeez!!
  11. Quick and easy couscous salad

A friend is getting married today, shout outs and best wishes.

24. A sad loss for RSA

18-20 to New Zealand.

12. South Africa v Kenya 2015 audit

Following from Fridays post and this one two years back I would like to extend the list by  a few things that say home to me and that don’t feel the same here

  • Kenya has a huge tea culture. Even when families have a big do and people have been drinkin’ when tea time (4-5pm) rolls in, people – old and young, male and female, will all take a break and have a cuppa. Not so much in SA. How many times have I hosted people, offered tea and heard, ” well, we are drinkin’ so maybe not.”
  • Also, just the fact we prefer tea to coffee. Despite growing and exporting both.
  • Also, just the fact that it took me years to find a local brand of tea bags that was brewed as strong as the one I loved at home. Hello Five Roses African Blend which is perfectly strong and is sourced from Eastern Africa teas.
  • Taxis that do not have a fare collector or someone that calls out the route. Meaning that the person that seats up front, next to the driver, has to take the fare and give back any change. Nerve wracking when I used to take a taxi where the fare was R11.50 per person and you had to quickly decide how much was due for all the 15  taxi passengers. Fast. It also never ceased to amuse me how the driver would be so uninterested i.e. if you needed him to give you two fifty cents for R1, he would look ahead and say he has no change! So what must happen?
  • In addition, you have to learn all the different taxi signs to be able to signal correctly to the driver.
  • All this, against the fact that I do not speak any Zulu, which is standard taxi language for Johannesburg. NERVE WRACKING!
  • Also, I find that I still compare the price of taxi (matatu) fare in Kenya v SA. Very expensive in South Africa.
  • Standard rice in South Africa is fat and Basmati is quite expensive. I will just leave that here because in Kenya we have different quality of Basmati rice for all!
  • One ply tissue? One ply tissue? WHY? What does it do. I find that I totally judge any establishment that has one ply because ONE PLY TISSUE IS INEFFECTIVE!
  • Fast food and eating out is much cheaper in South Africa than in Kenya. Although, the food in Kenya is naturally organic whereas it is highly processed in SA. On this, I would rather be in Kenya.
  • Being asked all of the time (still) what my name means. Urrggh! Almost universal fact is that all South African names have a meaning and it is expected that similarly African names on the continent will be the same. Which for the most part is true. I just happen to be that minority with a name similar to a local name that has a meaning, but mine doesn’t. It would take a separate post to explain all the inappropriate places where I have been asked what my name means – just off the top of my head, calling for official purposes to speak to an individual and having to leave a message with the receptionist who will keep me on the phone longer to ask what my name means and whether I have heard of the local equivalent. Urgggh just urgggh!
  • I miss the fruits in Nairobi that taste great all the time!! Not so much here where it’s a lottery of what you might get.
  • Talk radio. Bye Bye all the morning drive filth in Nairobi. Just good bye and good riddance!
  • How the country bleeds or shines when the Boks, Proteas and Bafana Bafana play. I don’t get it. I am most likely to be the person shopping because people are at home or at Sports bars and I can finally pack by the entrance to the shopping centre.
  • South Africans have labour rights and a social security system that actually works. It still surprises me!
  • The state of education. I argue all the time with people I know that it is unacceptable and that in Kenya poor people work hard and get the best quality of education that they can possibly get for their kids and the pass mark is much much higher than here. It saddens me that in Public primary schools, the kids get like half an hour of homework, Monday to Wednesday and maybe on Thursday and this stops almost a month to the final exams! Yes, I know there are private schools but there you get what you pay for – as it to be expected!
  • Beach fronts in Cape Town and Durban are easily accessible to the public. You can park your car and walk to the beach and not to have to walk through a dingy path or pretend that you had gone for drinks at a hotel. Nah! None of that, you just walk across and sit beach side 🙂
  • Expiring data??? Not sure if this applies in Kenya but where does expired data go? Does it slow down or what happens? I do not understand why data has an expiry date.
  • Also just Kenya rocks for the fact that Wireless is widespread and the net speed is much faster.
  • Our lackluster presidents. UK and JZ belong together and both sadden me!

If you have been to or lived in either country, please let me know your thoughts? If you have only ever lived in the one country, what makes it home for you?

9. And what is my heritage?

UG independence day

Happy Birthday Uganda!! 53 today and counting 🙂

South Africa has a Public Holiday on the 24th of September – Heritage Day. There is a bit of a history of this day. There is also ill-feeling around the fact that this has now been White-washed to National Braai Day which cheapens the day. Be that as it may, I would like to commemorate my own Heritage Day and share part of what makes me, me.

  1. I am not a refugee. I remember being in lower primary at school and hearing people call me one and I had honestly never heard that phrase and when I dutifully went home and asked my parents what it meant, I saw the disgust in their face and honestly thought it was a swear word. My parents moved to Kenya as part of the East Africa Community and they got jobs in Nairobi. Yes I am a foreigner, but a legal one and really a labour migrant.
  2. The same thing applies to my status in South Africa. I am proudly foreign but also extremely legal and here by choice. Weirdly, I had my own status prior to marrying a local boy. Yes I am aware that marriages of convenience do happen but by the time we got to settling down, they had tightened up all of those loopholes. And they continue to do so even to date. Don’t even remind the number or height of hoops we had to jump through to get married.
  3. Growing up in a very Ugandan home but in a foreign country, was never confusing. Not in the least. Without much explanation, it was always known what happened at home and what was non-negotiable and the level of influence that we could pick up outside and bring home and you just knew what fit where.
  4. Some non-negotiable Ugandan aspects? We always knelt to greet my parents and other visitors, we proudly bore only our Ugandan names- my mom was particularly clear about us using our first names that identified us as coming from my fathers community and not our middle ones that are from her community. Our foods always had groundnuts, we had groundnut sauce, sweet potatoesamukeke (dried and steamed sweet potatoes),  matooke (plantain)atap (millet),  firinda (beans), obutusi (traditional mushrooms),  smoked and dried beef and fish. Just brought tears to my eyes and loads of salivating as I remember some of these meals.
  5. We also learnt Kiswahili and Sheng’ that was spoken by our contemporaries. We adopted chapati (flat bread), ugali (steamed maize flour) and sukuma wiki (kales). We wrote local exams and went to local schools living and mingling with predominantly Kenyans. My accent? How many times have I been in Uganda and had people walk up to me and refuse to accept that I am Ugandan because of my accent. I think it is now a confusing thing because the most I get is, “Are you from East Africa?”
  6. As I have gotten older, I have learnt not to question too much what makes me me. I have certain core beliefs that I hold dear to me and surprisingly, a lot of them are inspired by my Christian faith as I view that as my first and biggest cultural lens. Thereafter, in light of what makes the most sense to me as an African child. Some cultural practices differ from community to community and indeed nation to nation but for the most part, they are summarised by respect for all, care and regard for all and your enviroment and in some cases, there are gender expectations that you must adhere to.
  7. In planning the wedding, it did get confusing but even then it played out how I order my worldview – get all the requirements for the Church wedding out of the way and then get the traditional/ civil stuff finalised. The traditional stuff was a mix of both my mom and dad’s practices and you would expect it to be similar but it wasn’t and as long as I was told where to stand and what to do,I did and it got done.
  8. As I am getting older/ maybe in the last four to five years, I have seen an increased interest in my traditional dress (ssuka) and I delight in wearing it to special occasions. As a married woman, there is also additional jewelry that I get to wear it with which makes it even more special. An interesting finding for me was also the fact that I asked my dad whether my grandma took my granddad’s surname and he told me two things: (i) in our culture, before the  wazungu (White man) came, we didn’t typically take on surnames because it was taboo to name someone after yourself unless the baby was born when you were going to die or were at war and were expected/feared dead  and (ii) names in our culture are indicators of a clan and since a man would never marry a sister (a fellow clanmate) it was never expected that you would take on the new (clan) surname. On that note, I figured why take it on then?
  9. Something I do ask is what is Kenyan culture. What of that background contributes to me. A friend asked me recently, when you say you are going home, where do you mean? Unequivocally, Kenya. I KNOW the people, the context of stories, the language, the setting, so many firsts and memories singly and with others.  It’s a whole part of my life and a part I love with such intensity, it is both exciting and scary. But is all mine to pick and play with.
  10. So happy heritage day and here’s to all the things that make me,me. Cheers!!

PS: If you are from Uganda (the Motherland), please let me know if my spelling of the food is fine – prior to now, I have never had to spell them out.

Monday Morning Jam

No clue what they are saying but it’s lovely and the video is awesome!

Enjoy!

Spare a thought (and tears) for the Children

On Saturday I wept as I stood in front of a group of 15 high school students ranging in age from 15 to 18 (Grade 10 – 12).

For the past five weeks, I have been volunteering my time to tutor a class of Grade 10-12s at a school in Soweto to assist children from under-equipped schools with their school work in order to boost overall performance. There is an education crisis in South Africa and as a privileged member of the society; I have decided to take some time to give back.

 What is Maths Literacy?

 The competencies developed through Mathematical Literacy allow individuals to make sense of, participate in and contribute to the twenty-first century world — a world characterised by numbers, numerically based arguments and data represented and misrepresented in a number of different ways. Such competencies include the ability to reason, make decisions, solve problems, manage resources, interpret information, schedule events and use and apply technology. Learners must be exposed to both mathematical content and real-life contexts to develop these competencies. Mathematical content is needed to make sense of real-life contexts; on the other hand, contexts determine the content that is needed.

 There are five elements to it, Maths Literacy involves:

  1. the use of elementary mathematical content.
  2. authentic real-life contexts
  3. solving familiar and unfamiliar problem
  4. decision making and communication.
  5. the use of integrated content and/or skills in solving problems

 Source

 A bit of context here is the fact that until three or four years ago, Mathematics was not a compulsory subject for high school students and in fact many of them elected not to do it at all. I, who studied in Kenya until first degree level, found this extremely odd as Mathematics is compulsory for all until the twelfth year of high school. Further, that some of the outcomes being measured at Grade 10-12 level I did between Grades 4 and 8 to varying complexity.

So why did I cry?

A key skill they have to learn in Maths Literacy is ratios and proportions. For the past five weeks, I have been trying to teach them about cross multiplying in order to equate two relationships. On Saturday, we had a price list for vegetables and had to qualify cost; weights bought and undertake other related calculations.

The problem

If the price of strawberries is R29.99/400g:

  1. What is the price of 1 kg of strawberries?
  2. If he bought 0.4kg of strawberries, how much did he pay?

Each of these questions took us over 15 minutes to solve and I could tell that they just didn’t get what was required of them and tended to guess the final outcome. For instance, I got answers to (ii) above in grammes.

To test whether they understood this price-weight relationship, I would ask whether in (i) they expected an answer that’s greater than or larger than R29.99 and again, they had no clue. Here I was checking whether they understood the relationship and to introduce the idea of sense checking an answer rather than diving in to answer without understanding the question.

After the blank stares, I actually lost my head. For five weeks, we have applied cross multiplying to so many different circumstances and still they can’t apply it or even recognise when it’s the best way to arrive at a solution. What’s worse, even when I reminded them that we have looked at it repeatedly each Saturday without fail, in a bid to refresh their memory, there was no concern or even sense of urgency on their part. In fact, this was my issue to deal with as frankly it had no bearing on them.

The national pass mark is 30% and even with that, some 15.9% of Matric students failed Maths Literacy. The bar is so low and it broke my heart that even with such a low bar, these kids still had little fighting chance and that despite being sufficiently grown up to understand this, they still didn’t an I almost had the sensation of how hopeless my efforts were, almost like I was repairing a fast bleeding wound with the tiniest of plasters.

But that was one sad moment, today I am hopeful and looking at different ways to help them understand this principle as well as make Maths Literacy a practical subject for them and to empower them to have the confidence to do succeed and advance in their studies.

 

 

I too am one of “them”

While writing this post, I suppose I struggled the most with the privilege that I have been afforded since moving to South Africa (incidentally, next week marks 7 years).

I have been blessed to have an income that afforded me the privilege of living in the multi-racial and international parts of Johannesburg. I have the luxury to forget my foreignness and blend in. For the most part.

Over the years, I have had certain encounters that reminded me that alas! I am one of “them” and these have always stayed with me.

  1. In 2011, the municipal bus service that I used at the time went on a protracted strike and this forced me to use a bus service whose customers are predominantly black South African. Over those four months, that was my WORST.EXPERIENCE.EVER. As I live in the suburbs, the drivers would make all kinds of assumptions about my socio-economic status and often not stop. When they did stop, the driver would not respond in English when I enquired whether he would go past my office, neither would he reply when I asked about the fare. The other customers were even worse between ignoring me when I asked for assistance and hissing “foreigner” or “English speaker” as I passed by them.
  2. Same thing about asking for directions/ the fare in a minivan taxi. Folk don’t even look at you as you repeatedly ask. Basically, they are mute and to them you don’t exist. Coupled with this is the added fear that because of my foreignness, the rest of the passengers in the taxi will somehow plot to harm me in some way or another.
  3. When I first joined my University (an English-medium school), I remember going to the Administration block to receive information for my Tutorial and the Course Administrator looked at me, spoke in what I later discovered to be seSotho and refused to speak English. To make it worse, there was a black student who wouldn’t help me. Only when I came back with the Caucasian Head Tutor did I get assistance.
  4. Going to the Puma store in Maponya Mall and having the Store Manager grill my sister and I as to why we did not speak seSotho after we enquired in English about a particular product. We left  because he needs the money, not us. He wasn’t moved by this.
  5. Constantly having to justify why after all this length of time I have been here, I still do not speak any local language. The threats that I shall get deported or have my visa rescinded because of this. Repeatedly and in the most random of places.

But even as I write this, I know that it does come off as a huge whine because never has my life been in any kind of danger. Never have I slept in fear that my neighbours will attack me or kill me. Never have I had my property taken away from me. And this, not because of anything but the grace of God and His provision for me. And, that’s why I want to do something for some of these stranded foreigners and help them in this time of their life but what?

On feeling “Other”

The reason for the blog silence around here is that I can’t quite bring myself to focus on writing something while foreigners in Gauteng (Joburg’s province) experience looting, shooting and general fear for their lives. As a foreigner, and one that’s privileged and been blessed enough to avoid all of that, my heart breaks. So I am just going to chill and process what I feel for now.

Asimbonanga

… but we can make his dream possible in our lifetime.

Lala Ngoxolo Tata ..

Three South African jams I’m loving at the moment

Also take a moment to enjoy the street fashion. Never ceases to amuse me about Joburg 🙂